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Historic Howard Lake city hall preservation still alive
July 6, 2018

by Nancy Dashwood
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – It was obvious plans for the historic city hall were going to have to change during a special meeting of the Howard Lake City Council June 28.

City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller and Assistant City Administrator Aurora Yager reported that the project had received just one bid.

That bid, from Larson Building, Inc. came in significantly higher than the city architect’s total estimate of $919,326.

Larson Building, Inc. submitted a total project bid of $1,601,025.

After receiving the bid, city architect Patrick Bougie of SEH, Inc. consulted with plan holders and representatives of Larson Building, Inc. in an attempt to figure out why the project only received one bid.

Bougie learned that the bid period, which had been right in the middle of the construction season, had impacted plan holders’ decisions.

Bougie also reported that plan holders noted general contractors may have availability to do the project, but the need for more than a dozen sub-contractors in a very tight market was problematic.

Bougie stated plan holders noted that finding skilled plasterers was extremely difficult.

City and SEH, Inc. staff proposed the following cost-saving measures to keep the project alive:

• demolish the existing plaster ceiling and replace it with Sheetrock. A waiver from the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) would be necessary to make this historically-inaccurate swap;

• establish a water connection from a different source. Current plans call for water to come from Highway 12 – the city’s main thoroughfare – which would require both detouring and extensive restoration work;

• change the plan’s requirement of all hardwood flooring in certain areas in which it would be insignificant;

• allow greater flexibility in the project completion date. The specifications called for the project to be done by January 2019. Staff indicated extending or negotiating that time frame could result in potential savings.

Paying the bill

Haggenmiller presented a unique proposal for covering the “worst case scenario” project cost of $1.6 million.

“The City could consider using cash reserves that were dedicated for the street projects and historic city hall to fund the street projects in full without bonding. The total construction and engineering cost for these projects is $700,000,” his report stated. “Explicitly, for the paving projects and general fund dollars earmarked for the historic city hall project this equals $700,000.”

Haggenmiller and Yager proposed financing the historic city hall preservation by utilizing:

• $355,000 from a Small Cities Development Grant;

• $165,000 from the Voyager Revolving Loan fund;

• $2,500 from the Howard Lake Historical Society; and,

• $1,078,525 in tax abatement bonds.

Haggenmiller noted that the presented plan left the city’s overall cash position the same in terms of cash applied to 2018 capital projects, and would increase the proposed bond amount by $178,000.

The council elected to modify the project plans as presented, and then officially approved going out for project bids at its July meeting. The council then officially rejected the Larson Building, Inc. bid.

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